It was an avoidable death. 32-year-old pregnant woman and mother of two, Mrs Elo Onome did not live to tell her story. 'When on Sunday, November 25, 2012, she was rushed to the Central Hospital, Ughelli, Delta State from another government hospital in Otu-Jeremi following complications in her pregnancy, she thought she would live. But there was no consultant on duty at the Central Hospital to handle her case consequent upon which she was referred to a private clinic, also at Ughelli.
Mrs Onome was delivered of a dead baby at the private clinic which now referred her to the Central Hospital, Warri, following more complications in her case. But the woman did not make it to Warri. She died on the way. The husband says his wife would have lived if she had received prompt medical attention at Ughelli Central Hospital.
Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, a medical doctor, is said to be livid about incidents of non-availability of personnel in hospitals in cases as Onome's, said to be rampant in Delta State.
Sources said the governor might wield the big stick against members of his profession if things did not change fast, as he would not condone anyone or anything that will put a question mark on his health programme for the people in the state.
At the last national summit of the Nigeria Medical Association, NMA, which he hosted, in January, in Asaba, the governor made it clear that he decided to host his colleagues to provide an avenue for internal cleansing and rededication to duty.
If anything, he told Sunday Vanguard after the conference, "I am happy that doctors have seen the need not to embark on strike action and leave patients to suffer on hospital beds because of their grievances over wages and allowances. That was one of the messages the doctors that attended drove home strongly and they agreed with us in the communiqué that was later issued.
"As far as Delta is concerned, we are doing everything possible to extend healthcare to our people, the Free Maternal and Child Healthcare programme as well as the quality health facilities at the State Teaching Hospital, Oghara, has greatly reduced maternal and child mortality in the state."
'My wife would not have died if ...'
The bereaved husband, Mr. Joseph Onome, a businessman, narrated the circumstances that led to the death of his wife: "I know that my wife would not have died if there were medical experts at the Ughelli Central Hospital to attend to her when we came. We were referred from Otu-Jeremi General Hospital, where the lackadaisical attitude started and complications cropped up to the Central Hospital, Ughelli, where we met no consultant to handle her case.
"Specifically, I was told by a student doctor that the consultants had traveled for the weekend and there was no qualified medical personnel to attend to us. That was why we were referred to a private clinic. I never planned taking my wife to a private clinic, but, because of the situation, I did that and, from there again, I was referred to the Central Hospital, Warri. My wife could not make it, she died on the way because people, who were supposed to on duty, were not on duty in a government hospital".
Ikimi blames doctors, nurses
National Coordinator of the Forum for Justice and Human Rights Defence, FJHD, Oghenejabor Ikimi, who is Onome's counsel, blamed medical personnel in the government hospitals where the woman was rushed to for her death, in a letter, dated December 24, addressed to Uduaghan,
The letter is entitled, "Petition against negligence of duty and lackadaisical attitude to work by the doctors and nurses in the General Hospital, Otu-Jeremi and Central Hospital, Ughelli, resulting in the untimely death of Mrs. Elo Joseph Onome".
Ikimi asserted that the deceased, who was duly registered for ante-natal care at the General Hospital, Otu-Jeremi and who was approaching delivery, was rushed on Sunday, 25 November, 2012 to the said hospital on the complaint of waist pain at about 1:20 a.m.
He went on:"It is also our brief, that when our client got to the said hospital (Otu Jeremi), it was only one nurse, named Mafemi, that was on duty in the whole hospital and, aside our client's wife, there was another labour case the said nurse was attending to. After she examined our client's wife, she disclosed that the complaint was as a result of the fact that the wife was about to commence labour, but, because of the staff strength at the facility at that material time, she, being the only person on duty, she refused to admit our client's wife into the labour room, but rather told our client (Joseph Onome) to bring her back, as soon as the wife discharged water from her vagina.
"It is also our brief that when our client got home, the wife started vomiting and thus was taken back to the same hospital and was eventually admitted at about 2:00 am, after which our client left in order to attend to his other children at home.
"At about 7:30 am, the nurse on duty called our client and informed him that his wife has started bleeding but had not yet been delivered and, as such, our client went back to the hospital and met one Dr. Ikpegbu Tochukwu, who wrote a referral letter transferring the case to the Central Hospital at Ughelli on the ground of the unavailability of staff to handle the case at the material time.
"It is also our brief, that at the Central Hospital, Ughelli, our client met one Dr Mike, a houseman at the maternity ward and without examining our client's wife, further referred our client's wife to a private clinic known as Celina Clinic, but later changed his mind and ask our client to take his wife to Life Care Clinic, on the same excuse that there were no consultants on ground, as all of them have gone for weekend even though he admitted that the hospital had the facilities to handle the case.
"It is also our brief that because the bleeding of our client's wife, whose case was getting more severe by the passage of time, our client took her to the nearby clinic named Life Care Clinic, where she was eventually delivered of a still-birth and because at the time of arrival, the case had already worsened, she was further referred to the Central Hospital, Warri, where she eventually gave up the ghost on her way to the said hospital.
"Take notice that if no step is taken to redress this huge loss to our client, we shall be compelled to institute a legal action against the Ministry of Health and the Hospital Management Board for snuffing life out of our client's wife and child, whose shinning destiny was abruptly truncated."
We were not negligent - Medical officer
Sunday Vanguard visited the General Hospital, Otu-Jeremi, December 20, 2012, where the medical officer, Dr. Tuoyo Eda, confirmed that Mrs. Onome was actually brought to the hospital by her husband on the date in question, but said she was having hemorrhage and was referred to Central Hospital, Ughelli for specialist attention.
He said, "From the records of the nurses, she was being seen, monitored and we have our documentation. Labour is a complex matter, anything can happen in labour, it was well-handled here."
At the Central Hospital, Ughelli, the medical director was said to be on leave, but consultant pediatrician/child health expert, Dr. Okposio Mathias, promised the authorities would get back to our reporter. They never did.
I did my best to save her life - Dr. Imure
Medical director of Life Care Clinic, Ughelli, Dr. M.G. Imure, told Sunday Vanguard that he attended to Mr. Onome and his late wife "because I saw that they needed help; if not, I was to travel to Benin City after coming back from the church on that day". He added: "Mr. Onome, who rushed to my house, told me his wife was bleeding and in labour pain. I did scanning and saw that the placenta had detached from the womb. I took blood samples, told the man to go and do laboratory test, while I took the woman to the theatre.
She expelled and I called him later to tell him that his wife had delivered by vagina.
"She was still bleeding at that time, but his wife's blood is 0 negative and when he came back, I told him the wife had to be taken to a specialist at the Central Hospital, Warri to save her life. I did my best to save her life; whatever happened is unfortunate".
'How my wife died in my car'
Mr. Onome, speaking on the death of his wife, said, "It was on my way to the Central Hospital, Warri, driving the car with one hand and managing to hold my dying wife with the other hand behind. The drip fixed on her hand pulled off and I was trying to do two things at at time when she cried out that the pain was too much for her. Meanwhile, my children, who were in the car, reported at a time that 'mummy was no longer talking', she was panting for breath at this stage and before I knew it, she had given up the ghost.
"It was heartbreaking for me, my beautiful and loving wife died in my car as I was rushing her to Warri. At the Otu-Jeremi Hospital, no medical official agreed to follow me to the General Hospital, Ughelli when they knew there was complication. It was the same scenario at the General Hospital, Ughelli, nobody followed me even when I begged them and, at Life Care Clinic, only me again and my children left with her to Warri.
"Perhaps, if there was medical personnel with us, the drip would not have pulled off; maybe, something could have been done to avoid further complications, but they refused to accompany us, they left us to our fate and my wife died".